A fan wanted a better team to cheer on. So he found it better player. (Released 2021) (2023)


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The revival of the El Salvador soccer team is a tribute to better organization, coaching and talent. But it also owes a fan with a gift for scouting.

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A fan wanted a better team to cheer on. So he found it better player. (Released 2021) (1)

VonAndrew Das

Read in Spanish

SAN SALVADOR — For over a decade, Hugo Alvarado scoured the internet for soccer players who could improve El Salvador's national teams. He was, he shyly admits, pretty good at it.

From a home computer in California, he quickly identified dozens of members of the vast Salvadoran diaspora, players with Salvadoran-sounding names or Salvadoran-looking faces and places in European professional club rosters, M.L.S. Academy teams and American college programs. Then he tracked them down one by one. Those who expressed an interest in playing for El Salvador were added to the growing databaseAlvarado's website.

However, there was always a catch: Alvarado did not work for the El Salvador Football Association. He had no authority to recruit players for his national teams. He was just a fan who wanted to support better teams.

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"I wanted to see a more competitive national team," he said this week, more than a decade into his project. "That's why I do what I do."

As thefinal qualifying roundfor theWM 2022Qatar start this week in North and Central America as there has been much talk about the rebuilding of the US men's teamhis qualifying mistake in 2017. But Thursday's first opponents, El Salvador, also have a new leader, a new coach and a new generation of bright young talent. And the rebuilding it has undertaken can be just as comprehensive.

El Salvador was the first Central American country to qualify for theWorld Championship, in 1970, and the first to return on it a second time in 1982. His team has mostly stalled since then, cooped up by small thinking,large Scandaland an inability - or unwillingness - to modernize. Quietly, that could all change.

Last fall, the El Salvador federation hired Diego Henriquez, a former youth international who played college soccer in the United States, as its first athletic director. Henríquez's first collaborator was Hugo Pérez, a respected former US soccer player and coach.

Their goal initially was to focus on providing El Salvador's youth teams with better players wherever they could find them. Aformer United States Under-17 playerfrom Indiana with a Salvadoran father. ANew York Red Bulls Academy productwith a Salvadoran mother. A professional in the Netherlands who was actually eligible to play for four countries, andhad already worn the jersey of one of them. Also the nephew of Pérez, aformer US youth soccer teammate of Christian Pulisic, be the right one.


This type of offensive strategy is hardly unique - Italy, England, Spain and many other countries have all used foreign-born players - and Pérez knows the value of it as well as anyone: the El Salvador-born has played for the more than 70 years United States and represented the country at the Olympics and World Cup. And he, like almost everyone else in Salvadoran football, had heard of Alvarado's detective work.

"Bringing talent from different parts of the world could be a plan in any federation," Henriquez said, noting that the United States has long been doing this and more recently Mexico has been making offers to American-born and bred players has. "It's part of the restructuring of our identity."

However, ambition works best with a plan. Under Pérez and Henríquez, El Salvador has a holistic approach: training and coaching at the highest level, but also improvements in diet, sleep and fitness, and an emphasis on “what it means to represent El Salvador, what it means to wear a national team shirt what it means to come to a camp and be a pro.”

The early return was auspicious: Henríquez and Pérez were hired to manage the youth teams and took charge of the senior side in April after worrying results in an earlier round of World Cup qualifiers led to a change of coach. Building on young players and new recruits, El Salvador reached the knockout stages of this summer's Gold Cup, a major regional championship, even beating Mexicoa brief shockbefore going out in the quarterfinals.

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El Salvador have few illusions about upcoming World Cup qualifiers: the region will get just three-and-a-half places in next year's tournament from their eight-team octagon qualifier, and few expect La Selecta, as El Salvador is known, to win one becomes . However, the region's representation will grow when the World Cup takes placeexpands to 48 teamsin his next cycle.

"Our main goal is 2026," Henriquez said. "We've only just started, and we know it."

Until then, other new players will be part of the plans, but so will Alvarado. On the day he was hired last October, Henriquez told reporters he was open to "anyone who can help" improve El Salvador. One of his first stops was the man in California with the home computer and a wealth of knowledge of the kind of players that might be available. In October,Henriquez hired Alvaradoas the first full-time scout in the association's history.

Henriquez said the plan is to refine Alvarado's hobby and focus him on not finding every potential Selecta player but on certain ones. Instead of a vacuum cleaner, he would essentially become a personal shopper, presented with a shopping list of specific needs — for example, to add to an age group's team, or to offer options to look at in a specific position or role. He and Henriquez are still unsure how much talent might be available.

"I need five Hugo Alvarados in North America," Henriquez said.

Alvarado's latest find, 20-year-old midfielder Enrico Dueñas, is exactly the kind of prospect he and El Salvador will be looking for. A veteran of both Ajax and Vitesse academies and eligible to play for four countries by lineage – the Netherlands, where he was born, but also El Salvador, Finland and Curaçao – Dueñas was spotted by Alvarado through the player's sister, who he later got to systematically go through a list of Dueñas' Facebook friends.

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Open to this approach, Dueñas made his competitive debut for El Salvador at an Olympic qualifier in Mexico in March and was included in Pérez's squad for the first three World Cup qualifiers.

On Sunday he arrived in El Salvador for the first time.

For Alvarado, Dueñas and another player he identified long ago, the uncovered import from Costa Ricachristian martinez, have garnered the kind of buzz he used to covet when he first created his website.

But they also bring back memories of his father speaking about El Salvador's glory days of 1982 and 1970, before civil war scattered the country's citizens around the world in search of safety. Now he's trying to bring at least a few back.

"I firmly believe that we have the talent to take a team to the World Cup," said Alvarado. "And I firmly believe that foreign-born Salvadorans can get us there faster."


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Does El Salvador have a good soccer team? ›

El Salvador has made two FIFA World Cup appearances: first in 1970 and again in 1982, but have never progressed beyond the first stage of a finals tournament. They were the 1943 CCCF champions, and finished in second-place in the 1941 and 1961 championships.

Who is the most liked soccer player? ›

Cristiano Ronaldo | Al-Nassr | 791.6 million followers

Ronaldo is the absolute GOAT of soccer social media.

How much do El Salvador national team players get paid? ›

A player in the El Salvador top flight earns between $400 and $3,500 a month and a lot of the clubs don't pay on time because they don't have the money. So at times players have no economic incentive and soccer becomes an escape valve for them.

Has El Salvador ever beat USA? ›

The USA enters the match with a 11-1-6 record against El Salvador, dating back to a 2-1 win in San Salvador on Sept. 21, 1977. The USA are also unbeaten in their last 17 games against their Central American foes.

Who is considered the best soccer player ever to play a game? ›

1. Lionel Messi – 6 Ballon d'Ors, 2022 World Cup.

Who is the best player in the world all time? ›

Top 10 football players of all time
  • Ronaldo (Brazil)
  • Alfredo di Stefano (Argentina)
  • Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany)
  • Johan Cruyff (Netherlands)
  • Zinedine Zidane (France)
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
  • Diego Maradona (Argentina)
  • Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Who is the greatest football player of all time? ›

He took the 1958 FIFA World Cup by storm aged 17, and with his enduring brilliance, did it all over again two decades later in 1970. Pele won three World Cups and scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 games. In his four World Cup appearances Brazil went 12-1-1. Pelé is rated by many as the greatest footballer of all time.

Do players get paid for representing their country? ›

In short, yes they do – though not as much as the Premier League salary they receive from playing for the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea.

How much money does El Salvador make a year? ›

Government Revenues in El Salvador averaged 2828.98 USD Million from 1990 until 2022, reaching an all time high of 6650.90 USD Million in 2022 and a record low of 583.80 USD Million in 1990.

What sports league pays their players the most? ›

Highest Paying Sports in the World

Basketball is the highest paid sport in the world, with the average annual salary in the NBA in 2023 being nearly $10.5 million. This is more than double the average salary in the NFL, which sits in second place at $4.5 million.

What US city has the most Salvadorans? ›

The Washington DC area is currently the only metropolitan area in the country where Salvadorans are the majority among Hispanics, and they are most concentrated in the suburbs in Northern Virginia and Maryland. In Washington D.C. proper, 32 percent of the Hispanic population are Salvadorans, the largest in the city.

Which US state has the most Salvadorans? ›

Salvadoran immigrants are broadly dispersed throughout the United States, but they live in greatest numbers in the states of California, Texas, and New York. More El Salvador-born people reside in Los Angeles and its surrounding communities than any other metropolitan area.

Is El Salvador an ally of the US? ›

The United States is one of the main political and economic partners with El Salvador, an alliance that has been reflected in priority areas such as: Migration, Security, Partnership for Growth, Fomilenio I and II, Alliance for Prosperity, and many other projects of economic-commercial development and cooperation.

Where is El Salvador ranked in soccer? ›

PositionMember AssociationPoints
10El Salvador1,352
37 more rows

What sport is El Salvador good at? ›

As with most of the Americas, football rules the sports world of the El Salvadorians. Their national football team had qualified for the 1970 and 1982 FIFA World Cup.

Where does El Salvador rank? ›

Regional Ranking
23El Salvador56
28 more rows

Has El Salvador ever won a World Cup? ›

El Salvador have appeared in the finals of the FIFA World Cup on two occasions in 1970 and 1982. They have not won a game at the tournament, in fact El Salvador is the only team to appear in more than one tournament with every single game being a loss.

What country is #1 in soccer? ›

FIFA World Ranking: top male soccer teams 2022. First introduced in December 1992, the FIFA men's world rankings show the best international soccer teams in the world based on recent match results and tournament performances. Brazil currently sit top of the FIFA world rankings, just ahead of Argentina.

Which country is No 1 in world football? ›

The FIFA Men's World Ranking is a ranking system for men's national teams in association football, led by Brazil as of 2022.

What is El Salvador known for? ›

Known as the Land of Volcanoes, El Salvador has frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity. It is the only country in Central America that does not have a coastline on the Caribbean Sea. Known as the "land of volcanoes," El Salvador has frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity. Please be respectful of copyright.

Is San Salvador beautiful? ›

El Salvador is blessed with lots of stunning natural and cultural sights. The country has a number of beautiful beaches along its Pacific coast, not to mention Mayan ruins, 25 volcanoes, and 14 lakes. When planning your trip here, you'll be surprised with how much you can fill in your El Salvador itinerary.

What happens if El Salvador wins? ›

Either a win or draw against El Salvador would push the USA to the top of Nations League A, Group D after two matches. A win would also see the USMNT clinch a spot in the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup by guaranteeing a top-two group finish.

Is El Salvador an ally? ›

The United States is one of the main political and economic partners with El Salvador, an alliance that has been reflected in priority areas such as: Migration, Security, Partnership for Growth, Fomilenio I and II, Alliance for Prosperity, and many other projects of economic-commercial development and cooperation.

Is San Salvador rich or poor? ›

Is El Salvador a rich country? The smallest country in Central America geographically, El Salvador has the fourth largest economy in the region.
El Salvador Economy Data.
Currency Name and CodeUS Dollar (USD)
Population Below Poverty Line36.5%
Inflation Rate1.1%
Labor Force2,788,000
25 more rows

How much does an English teacher make in El Salvador? ›

International Schools:

English is taught in private international schools such as the Escuela Americana (United States), Liceo Frances (France), Escuela Alemana (Germany) and Academia Britanica Cuscatleca (United Kingdom). Salaries for import teachers are an average of USD $1115 each month.

What is the biggest loss in World Cup history? ›

What is the biggest defeat in World Cup history?
  • Hungary 9, South Korea 0: 1954.
  • Yugoslavia 9, Zaire 0: 1974.
  • Hungary 10, El Salvador 1: 1982.
Nov 23, 2022

Has any World Cup never won? ›

Besides the Netherlands, the only other country that hasn't won the World Cup but has appeared in multiple finals is Hungary. The Hungarians haven't qualified for the World Cup since 1986, but in the earliest years of the tournament, they were a perennial power.

What is the most 0 0 in a World Cup? ›

The record number of 0-0 draws at a World Cup is seven, now shared by five different editions of the tournament. That tally was reached in 1982, 2006, 2010, 2014 and now 2022.


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